A Microsoft account has become increasingly important for Windows users, but Microsoft have made it all rather confusing.
Despite their claims, there are actually two type of Microsoft account, a personal account and a work account. Any email address (not just a Microsoft one) can be used to set up either type of account, or both.
When you do all sorts of things — like setting up Windows, or subscribing to Microsoft 365 to use Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, or signing up for Skype, Teams, or X-Box — you will need to use or create a Microsoft account.
Which one you use of create will depend on the product, or sometimes even on which version of the product.
There are personalised versions of this screen, too. For example, logging in to Skype at login.skype.com will give you this:
But they are really both the same screen.
If you type in the details of work Microsoft account on that screen, you will be told
Which can be very confusing – the Microsoft account does exist, but it’s a work one and not a personal one.
Much better to sign in at login.microsoftonline.com
It may look almost the same, but it’s not. It will sign you into either a personal Microsoft account or a work Microsoft account, whichever exists.
If both types of Microsoft account exist for that email address, you will be asked to choose:
The password request for each type of account looks slightly different, but Microsoft have not made it easy to understand which account is which.
Finally, if office.com is easier to remember, that will usually lead you to login.microsoftonline.com if you click Sign In (unless you’re already signed in to office.com)
Note that login.microsoft.com will also take you to the general login screen, the one that works regardless of account type.
Once signed-in to a Microsoft account, it’s usually more convenient to stay signed in. There’s probably no reason to ever log out. And if you tick “Keep me signed in” (if available) your sign in will survive even if the PC is turned off.
Remember, there are lots of ways to log in to either type of Microsoft account, but they all log in to the same account. For example if you change your Skype password you’re probably changing the password for your personal Microsoft account … and next time you log in to your Windows PC, you may have to use the new password.
But a work Microsoft account is separate from, and different to, a personal Microsoft account. Changing the password of one does not change the password of the other.